Week 9 - Football Game of the Week Preview

4A No. 13 Hobart (7-1)
at 4A No. 12 Lowell (6-2)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Lowell senior Tyler Wildman (32) needs 146 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. The Devils host rival Hobart in the regular season finale Friday night. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.

Where:  Lowell High School, 3 miles west of I-65 on US/2 in Lowell, Ind.

Tickets:  $6.

Kickoff:   7 p.m.
TV/Radio/Internet: None.

Enrollment: Hobart 1,297; LOWELL - 1,186.
Cold. Not chilly. Not brisk. Not a little nippy. Cold. Temperatures are forecast in the mid-40s for this week nine game and could get down into the 30s by 9 p.m. It's going to be a little uncomfortable, but it's about that time. Low winds and no rain. But it was 85 degrees Tuesday and it will be 45 degrees Friday. It's called ‘Northwest Indiana weather.’


PARKING: If the weather was warm, we’d have a standing room only crowd for this game as both teams are winning. But the weather is not warm and it’s going to keep some folks home. Visitors from Hobart will notice much more parking between the school and the playing field than there was when they visited two years ago. There will be a good crowd but there’s probably not going to be a capacity crowd. If you show up early and get a good parking spot, you can sit in your car until minutes before kickoff. And you might want to.


WHAT's AT STAKE: It's complicated. Hobart wants to beat Lowell, but the Brickies host 4A No. 4 Mishawaka (7-1) seven days later in a Class 4A Sectional 18 elimination game. Lowell drew a road game in 4A Sectional 17 at Highland (4-4). That’s not Mishawaka, but it's not an easy draw at all. Coaches and players certainly want to win a quality game and this is the regular season home finale for Lowell. But nobody’s season ends this Friday.

Permission to speak freely? I don't care about the conference. To me, the only thing worth less than a half-share of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) championship is second place in the NCC. It’s a patch on your letter jacket.

This week’s game has to be viewed in the light of a looming elimination game seven days later. All players are hurt a little after eight games, but anybody who’s injured has to sit out this week for Lowell or Hobart.

HISTORY: Hobart, the Northwest Indiana town of 30,000, spreads oddly from the Eastern edge of Lake County all the way to Southlake Mall. (Hobart is also is the capital city on the Tasmanian Island in Australia. But I bet they don’t have high school football.)

I don't think it's an overstatement (at least to some of us not born here) that Hobart gained its greatest notoriety in the 20th Century because of its high school football teams.

The Hobart Brickies (named after the brickyards that were a major part of the city’s economy in the Pre-World War II days) not only won state football championships (largely against larger schools) in 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993 but they were a state class franchise for almost 50 years.

Under coach Russ Deal (115-48-6) from 1948-1965 and coach Don Howell (314-73) from 1966 to 1998, Hobart’s Brickies dominated NW Indiana high school football in a way that almost certainly will never be equaled. I’m guessing that young people don’t totally understand why Hobart history is held in such high esteem.

Look at it like this.

Under head coach Kirk Kennedy (161-70) from 1991-2009 and coach Keith Kilmer (71-32) from 2010-2018, Lowell has won 14 sectionals, eight regionals and reached four state championship games. That Red Devil run which seems like forever to me, is only half the length of the time Hobart was riding high.

Hobart at one time, won 19 sectional titles in 19 years (1979 to 1997), a stretch that also seems impossible to match. The Brickies have played in 130 state tournament games and won 95 of them.
In the 1980s, I remember watching the Indiana state high school football playoffs on the old Channel 56 (the forerunner of Lakeshore Public Television) in the days when the state finals were on free TV.

Hobart reached the state finals five times (1979, ’80, ’82, ’84 and ’85) before they won in 1987 and they became a sentimental favorite, in effect, Northwest Indiana’s team. Of course the city adopted the team in an almost college-style fandom.

Even now, a generation later, each home-grown Hobart player grows up with playing football as a tradition of honor in town. Before every home game, the video board at the new Hobart high school shows film clips of one of the state title wins.

No high school football program in this part of the state has anything like the tradition that Hobart has.

(4A) Hobart (7-1)
6-4 (2017), 10-3 (2016), 5-5 (2015), 3-7 (2014)
Coach Craig Osika (1st year) 7-1 all NCC games in CAPS

8-17 (W) 10-9 at (6A) Chesterton (3-5)
8-24 (W) 21-20 at (6A) LaPorte (2-6)
8-31 (W) 17-14 at (4A) Culver Academy (6-2)
9-7 (W) 52-0 (4A) East Chicago (4-4)
9-14 (L) 7-41 (3A) ANDREAN (7-1)
9-21 (W) 31-6 at (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-6)
9-28 (W) 28-14 at (4A) HIGHLAND (4-4)
10-5 (W) 49-12 (4A) at MUNSTER (7-1)
10-12 (Fri) at (4A) LOWELL (6-2)

4 Sectional 18
10-19 (Fri) vs. Mishawaka (7-1)
10-26 (Fri) vs. Riley (4-4)


HOBART Update:

HOBART – Hobart won three games by three points or less early in the season and, except for a 34-point loss to Andrean, they have done nothing but step forward. The Brickies have been under the field leadership of sophomore quarterback Ronnie Johnston (65 of 129, 702 yards, 5 TDs, 4 interceptions), who is a good runner with 75 carries for 353 yards and five touchdowns. Johnston (5-10, 160) has thrown for 100 yards in a game just once. He was 9-of-15 for 208 yards against Kankakee Valley on September 21.

Senior Sal Valle (5-10, 185) has 125 carries for 705 yards and nine TDs for the Brickies. Sophomore Zach Vode (6-3, 195) has caught 30 passes for 383 yards and six TDs. You’ve got to throw the ball up high for Vode to go up and get it. He’s a mismatch for a lot of defensive backs. The tall sophomore caught five for 150 yards against Kankakee Valley.

Hobart, like Lowell, has faced just two teams that presently have a winning record. The Hobart defense gave up 41 points to Andrean, but has allowed just 75 points to the other seven teams they have played.

Sal Valle (6-1, 185) is also a key defensive back for Hobart with 35 solo tackles in eight games. Drake Reicho (5-8, 195) has 48 total tackles and six tackles for loss.

The Hobart kicker is Matt Kylek who has not missed a kick all year. The junior is 25 of 25 on extra points and 3-of-3 on field goals including a 37-yarder. Zack Vode is a good punter with a 32.5 yard average on 43 boots.

Hobart is not a very big team physically, but they have a lot of experience on defense. The Brickies have played 18 games in the last two season and held 11 opponents to 15 points or less.


Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC)
1. ANDREAN (4-0) 7-1
2. Hobart (3-1) 7-1
3. LOWELL (3-1) 6-2
4. Highland (2-2) 4-4
5. Kankakee Valley (0-4) 2-6
6. Munster (0-4) 1-7

Hobart 49, Munster 12
Highland 20, Kankakee Valley 19

Kankakee Valley (2-6) at Munster (1-7)
Highland (4-4) at Andrean (7-1)
LOWELL (6-2) at Hobart (7-1)
*end of the regular season.


NCC UPDATE: Andrean wins the championship if they win against Highland this Friday. Nothing else matters. Unless Highland pulls off a major upset, Lowell and Hobart are playing for second place.
On the south side of things, Munster and KV are playing for the right to say they didn’t finish last in league play. I don’t know if it matters, but Munster gets a bye in Class 5A Sectional 9 next week. Everybody else has a sectional quarterfinal game on Oct. 19 and that may affect who plays and who does not play this Friday.

LOWELL (6-2)
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 70-32) NCC Conference games in CAPS

8-17 (W) 17-7 at (6A) Crown Point (3-5)
8-24 (L) 3-7 (6A) Portage (4-4)
8-31 (W) 38-0 (4A) Morton (6-2)
9-7 (W) 51-0 at (3A) Clark (3-5)
9-14 (W) 13-10 (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-6)
9-21 (W) 7-0 (4A) at HIGHLAND (4-4)
9-28 (W) 21-12 (5A) MUNSTER (1-7)
10-6 (L) 15-36 (3A) at ANDREAN (7-1)
10-13 (Fri) (4A) HOBART (7-1)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-20 (Fri) at Highland (4-4)
10-27 (Fri.) vs. Griffith (6-2)
11-3 (Fri) Sectional 17 championship


LOWELL Update:

Lowell didn’t play as badly as the final score indicated last week. The Devils outgained Andrean 279-252 and had more first downs. Lowell lost because they gave up two long passing TDs and a kickoff return score.

The pass TDs are a concern because that’s where teams have had success attacking the Devils.

Andrean’s Zack Merrill was 12 of 22 for 196 yards and two TDs. For the season eight foes have thrown 174 passes against the Devils, completing 83 for 1,087 yards and five TDs.

Lowell will have to find a sub for senior Shawn Mooney (20 tackles, 6 pass breakups), who was injured last week. Three part time Lowell defensive backs are Ethan Igras (quarterback), Tyler Wildman (halfback) and John Alessia (wide receiver), who all have key roles on offense.

Lowell held Andrean to 56 yards rushing on 24 carries, the eighth consecutive team the Devils have held under 100 yards. Seniors Blake Jansky (9 ½ sacks), Mike Langen (44 tackles, 4 sacks), Chandler Austgen (11 tackles for loss) and their partners held up for the most part against the Andean rushing attack.

The 36 points Lowell gave up last week equaled the total the Devils allowed in the first seven games combined and the 252 yards Andrean gained was the highest total gained against Lowell this season.

Alessia, who played quarterback for five games while Igras was injured, caught a season-high five passes for 82 yards from Igras last week. Wildman (191 carries, 854 yards, 9 TDs) ran 23 times for 127 yards and Igras (24 of 51, 309 yards in 3 games) was 10 of 23 passing for 124 yards. There are several untested candidates to replace Mooney (12 catches, 105 yards) at wide receiver.

As strange as it sounds, Lowell’s offense still looks like a work in progress because they’ve only had the senior QB back for two games.

The injury to Mooney hurts Lowell because he played three (including punt returner) positions. The Devils’ JV season ends Saturday and, while they have a freshman game scheduled for October 18, Lowell, which has just 44 players on the varsity roster, will add a bit more depth after Saturday.


4A No. 13 HOBART (7-1) at 4A No. 12 LOWELL (6-2)

At  Lowell's Inferno: Capacity 2,500

Sagarin computer ratings:  Hobart by 6.

The spread here is probably because Hobart defeated Culver Academy (5-2), while the best team Lowell has topped is unranked Morton (6-2). Lowell’s home loss to Portage (4-4) weighs heavy on them in computer land. Both Lowell and Hobart lost decisively to Andrean. For the record, the computer favored Andrean over Lowell by 19 last week and Andrean won by 21. Don’t mess with the computer late in the season.



LOWELL (10-12-2018) Lowell starts fast in this game with a long TD pass-and-run to Tyler Wildman for a 7-0 first quarter lead. Hobart evens the score on Ronnie Johnston’s TD pass to Zach Vode in the second period.

The Devils get back to the lead on an option TD by Ethan Igras before halftime, but Sal Valle evens the score again with a third quarter scoring run. Lowell gets a turnover on a sack fumble and the Devils take the lead on a TD pass form Igras to Colin Sanfratello.

Lowell gets a couple of pass interceptions to keep Hobart away from the tying TD in the fourth period. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between these two teams, but experience at QB makes the difference here as Lowell’s pass rush shuts down late Brickie rallies.

LOWELL 21, Hobart 14

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Revised: October 10, 2018 .